A reader asked about the Zero Water Filter Pitcher.
"I'm considering buying a water filter pitcher and would like to know if the Zero Water Filter Pitcher is a good filter. I see that it removes 100% of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) which sounds good, but I'm not sure what that means. I would appreciate your review of the Zero Water Filter Pitcher."
We Don't Recommend the Zero Water Filter Pitcher
We evaluated the Zero Water Filter Pitcher, and we don't recommend it for several reasons.
- The Zero Water Filter Pitcher only removes a handful of water contaminants leaving you potentially exposed to dozens of pollutants in your drinking water.
- The filter has a very short filter life, driving up the maintenance costs.
- The makers of Zero Water Filter Pitcher advertise removal of 100% of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), but that does not mean that your water will be 100% free of contaminants; this claim is misleading and really just a marketing gimmick.
The Zero Water Filter Pitcher Has Limited Filtering Capability
We like the fact that it is certified by NSF through a third-party lab, but when you read the lab results, it's disappointing. The Zero Water Filter is only certified to remove chromium, lead, mercury, hydrogen sulfide and chlorine.
What about the rest of the water contaminants?
This filter does nothing to filter out Volatile Organic Contaminants (VOCs) like benzene, vinylchloride, styrene, and dozens of other VOCs, many of which are not yet regulated by an underfunded and overworked EPA.
While it's great that it removes chromium, mercury, and lead, it does nothing to filter out other heavy metals like aluminum, arsenic, and cadmium, which your water department may not be completely filtering out.
The filter does remove chlorine (chlorine is used to disinfect your water and keep it safe while it travels to your home), but it does not remove chloramines. Chloramines are currently used by about 20% of water departments instead of chlorine to disinfect water.
As a result, if your water department uses chloramines, the Zero Water Filter leaves that water disinfectant in your drinking water.
The filter is also ineffective at removing pesticides including glyphosate, herbicides, pharmaceutical drugs, and fluoride.
High-quality water filters on the market perform much better than the Zero Water Filter by removing over 200 water contaminants versus the six contaminants filtered out by the Zero Water Filter.
The Zero Water Filter has Short Filter Life
According to the Zero Water Filter site, their filter is effective for between 8-40 gallons depending on the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) present in your water. Their lab report states that the filter is rated to 15 gallons.
To give you an example of the short filter life, if you are the only person using the filter and you drink 1/2 gallon of water per day (8 glasses with 8 ozs of water), then the filter will only last you 30 days. If you share the filter with another person, then you'll need to change the filter every 15 days. That's a lot of filter changes driving a high maintenance cost!
A high-quality filter will last at least six months and as long as 12 months, so changing your filter every 15-30 days is not ideal.
Advertised Removal of 100% of TDS Does Not Mean Your Water is Clean
The makers of the Zero Water Filter Pitcher promote the fact that the filter removes 100% of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS); however, that claim does not mean that your water is 100% free of contaminants.
To understand why the claim is more advertising gimmick than useful science, you need to understand the definition of Total Dissolved Solids and what a TDS meter measures and what it does not measure.
What are Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)?
TDS stands for Total Dissolved Solids and is a measure of minerals in the water. These minerals include sodium, calcium, potassium, hydrogencarbonate, chloride, sulfate, and nitrate anions and originate from natural and man-made sources.
Natural TDS levels vary by geographic region. The average TDS in the US around 184 mg/L.
Are TDS Levels Regulated by EPA?
TDS levels are regulated by the EPA as a secondary contaminant, not as a primary contaminant that causes adverse health effects. The level set by the EPA is 500 mg/L. These secondary contaminant standards are set by the EPA to minimize objectionable color, taste, odor, and appearance since these factors can deter public acceptance of drinking water.
In other words, TDS is regulated as an aesthetic issue rather than a health hazard. The EPA set the secondary standard to 500 mg/L since levels higher than that can cause the following aesthetic effects:
EPA TDS Secondary Standards is 500 mg/L
Noticeable effects of water with TDS above 500 mg/L:
- Colored water
- Salty taste
Does TDS Have Anything to Do With Water Quality?
Differences in TDS levels have nothing to do with water quality, except in extreme examples where the TDS exceeds 1,200 mg/L. As you can see above, TDS has to do with hardness, taste, and appearance.
For example, you cannot conclude that water with a TDS level of 100 mg/L. is better quality than water with a TDS level of 200 mg/L. It's possible that the water sampled with the lower TDS is poorer quality than the higher TDS water, but you'd never know it from the TDS measure because it does not measure water quality.
Quite simply, TDS is not a measure of water quality and TDS meters do not measure water quality.
Why You Can't Use a TDS Meter to Measure Water Quality
A TDS meter simply estimates the dissolved solids in your water. It does not measure dissolved contaminants like lead, arsenic, VOCs and many other contaminants. A higher TDS can simply mean that the water has higher mineral content.
TDS meters are not a recognized way of testing water for contaminants.
To test your water quality, you need sophisticated lab equipment to properly identify contaminants.
In their FAQs, even the makers of Zero Water Filter acknowledge that a TDS meter does not measure lead in your water.
If It Doesn't Measure Water Quality, Then What Is the Purpose of a TDS Meter?
If TDS meters do not measure water quality, then what is their use?
TDS meters can be used as a way to determine if it's time to change your Reverse Osmosis water filters.
How does this work?
Since reverse osmosis systems remove all of most of the minerals from your water, a TDS meter which measures mineral content can identify when it's time to change the filters by alerting you to a higher TDS meaning that the filters are no longer filtering minerals from your water. If the filters aren't removing minerals, then you can conclude that they are not filtering other contaminants either.
A TDS meter cannot detect contaminants that aren't charged like pesticides, gasoline, and pharmaceuticals, and it is not sensitive enough to measure toxic levels of arsenic, chromium, or lead.
A TDS meter does not give any type of reading about what contaminants might be in the water.
In summary, a TDS meter reading of close to zero does not mean that your water is contaminant-free since the TDS meter is not a recognized tool to measure water quality.
We do not recommend this filter because it performs poorly on contaminant removal, has a short filter life, and confuses potential customers about the value of zero TDS water.
Many other filters remove VOCs, SVCs, pesticides, insecticides, fluoride, water disinfectant chloramine, arsenic, pharmaceuticals, and the myriad of other contaminants in our water supply today that your water department doesn’t completely reduce to safe levels, so there's no reason to buy a filter that fails to protect you from these contaminants.
Recommended Water Filters
We do recommend water filters that excel at removing more than a handful of contaminants from your water and have long-lasting filters. Here are the ones we recommend:
Recommended Countertop Water Filters
Propur Countertop Water Filter System with the Promax Filter This is a long-life filter that is as effective as a reverse osmosis filter in removing VOCs, pesticides, lead and other chemicals, but does not also remove all the beneficial minerals in your water the way a reverse osmosis water filter would. It is portable and easy to install, meets NSF standards, is third-party tested, and they publish their test results.
Austin Springs Countertop Water Filter
This countertop filter is a great value because of its long-life filter, and its easy installation and portability. It is NSF certified to remove up to 60 contaminants like lead and mercury and is third-party tested.
Recommended Under Counter Water Filters
Propur Promax Under Counter Water Filter
Up to 200 contaminants can be removed with this filter, and it doesn’t strip beneficial minerals from your water like a reverse osmosis filter would. The filter lasts for a year, is third-party tested, and meets NSF standards.
Austin Springs Under Counter Water Filter
This filter can remove up to 60 contaminants, meets NSF standards, and is third-party tested. It has a 6-month filter life and is easy to replace. This filter will require either a plumber or a handy homeowner to install.
Recommended Water Pitcher Filter
Propur Water Pitcher Filter
This NSF tested pitcher filters 200 contaminants and holds up to 60 ounces of water. It has a filter life of up to 6 months, is portable, and easy to clean. This model also includes a user-friendly fruit infusion tube.
Recommended Water Container Filters
Traveler Propur Water Filter Container – 1.75 gallons
This simple to assemble filter removes up to 200 contaminants, meets NSF standards, and is third-party tested. It is portable and as effective as a reverse osmosis system at removing contaminants but doesn’t strip your water of important minerals.
Nomad Propur Water Filter Container – 2.1 gallons
The Nomad filters out 200 contaminants from your water and you can add an additional water filter to the system to increase water flow and decrease the amount of time it takes to filter the water. If you are only using 1 filter, this will last up to 6 months, and 2 filters will last up to a year. It is also NSF tested with published test results.
In summary, if you want to have pure drinking water, you should choose a high performing water filter like the ones we recommend. Always look for third-party lab results posted on the site and read the lab reports, so you have an understanding of what contaminants are removed by the filter.
Questions? Please contact us--we'd love to help.
- Zero Water Filter FAQs & Zero Water Performance Data Sheet
- Water Research Foundation Report: EPA Secondary Maximum Contaminant Levels: A Strategy for Drinking Water Quality and Consumer Acceptability
- Total dissolved solids in Drinking-water: Background document for development of WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality
- EPA.gov Secondary Drinking Water Standards: Guidance for Nuisance Chemicals
- Aquasana.com: What is a TDS Meter and Do You Need It?